California continues to far outpace the rest of the nation in charter school enrollment and growth, a study released Wednesday shows.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reported that 87 new charter schools opened in California this school year, more than in any other state. The new schools bring the number of charter institutions to 1,184. The states with the next highest number of charter schools, Florida and Arizona, have 653 and 623 each.
Twenty-eight of the new charter schools are located within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which already had 241 — the most of any school district in California — in 2013, according to the California Charter Schools Association.
Charter schools, which have been allowed in California since 1992, are independently run public schools often started by community groups that operate under agreements with local or state education agencies giving them more latitude in staffing, instruction and evaluation decisions. Like private or specialized public school magnet programs, parents apply to send their children to charter schools instead of having them automatically assigned based on where they live.
Because charter schools still receive public funding but don't have to follow all the same rules that traditional public schools do, teachers unions and some school districts have sometimes complained that they unfairly undermine neighborhood schools.
The charter school alliance estimates that California's charter schools are serving 547,800 students this year, or about 1 in every 11 students attending public school in the state. That's almost twice as many as in Florida.
The California Charter Schools Association said Wednesday that despite all the new programs, about 91,000 students remain on charter school waiting lists.
"Year after year, we see California's parents demanding high-quality school choice options for their children,'' said Jed Wallace, the state association's president.